Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Real "Problem" with Gaming...

OK, so we've read about various "problems" the gaming hobby supposedly has, and we've mostly stayed out of the fray because we really sympathize with the worst of these.  The mistreatment of women IS A PROBLEM THAT REALLY HAPPENS, albeit a HUMAN problem that applies to gaming only inasmuch as hobbyists are a subset of the general population.  And we SHOULD oppose this...   

Sadly, this is a REAL problem in the general population, so we aren't minimizing anything here, and I hope we can all agree that the abuse of women MUST BE STOPPED.  

In contrast to this important issue, there's another thing that bedevils us.  Apparently, we also have a cheapskate problem, something that threatens the industry and declares consumers evil for acting in their best interests when buying luxuries. 

We have less sympathy here.  Reasonable people who aren't making enough money in their current job will at least try to find another one, especially if a particular industry isn't one that supports whatever compensation they aspire to.

Now, we can talk about health care and fixing the system or whatever, and this is a conversation worth having.  But until you succeed in making the world better, you'll have to contend with reality as it is.  And telling people to change their discretionary habits to subsidize an OPTIONAL industry isn't gonna work.

And so we present the real "problem" in gaming:  

For those who think they're gonna pull down 50K with health insurance selling games, here's the sad fact: the amateur origins and home brew capabilities of gaming as a hobby are inherently limiting (read: self-limiting) with respect to its marketing appeal beyond a few publishers.  Consider this...    

First, RPGs can be defined as:

A set of WRITTEN rules to a game that takes place inside the participant's HEADS.  We give these to clever, intelligent players and tell them they're free to ADD OR CHANGE ANYTHING...

Furthermore, once they grasp the BASIC CONCEPT of role-playing, creative people can MAKE THEIR OWN!

And herein lies the so-called problem.  If you like fantasy and are generally good with the rules (and willing to change the 10% you otherwise don't), D&D is the ONLY game you'll need to play, and this is why the FIRST RPG remains the LEADING one.

Sure, editions change.  We get that, but our point stands.

Of course, people DO play other systems, and there's plenty of legitimate reasons for doing so.  Maybe you prefer a different genre and want to game in post-apocalyptic worlds or whatever...

Or perhaps you want a different ruleset, or believe (as we do) that players interact with mechanics too, and that different rulesets offer different EXPERIENCES that are worth having.

But the fact remains.  So long as gaming (1) takes place largely in the imagination of the players, (2) requires that individual GMs assume much of the preparation involved, and (3) this quality is one of the principle ATTRACTIONS of the hobby, the demand for endless releases is necessarily limited...

So is the desire for $90 full-color interior books!

But on an AMATEUR, small-press level, folks do write and publish an impressive array of products that we DO buy.  And not just to support our friends!  These materials can be EXTREMELY good (and we've reviewed a few right here).  More importantly, we enjoy them for the same reason everyone else does.  Because these products recognize the basic qualities that made the hobby appealing then and continue to make it an enjoyable pastime now...

No matter how well a book is produced and/or the rules written, gaming is something that PLAYERS (not the book) actually DO.  And no one will EVER succeed in packaging THAT.

And you can buy amateur stuff without giving up coffee!

Gaming was always an AMATEUR affair.  It started out that way, and remains at its best in this context because the FUN comes from people interacting with EACH OTHER and SHARING THEIR OWN materials, and this fact NECESSARILY limits the industry.

If this is the "problem" with gaming, we'll take it, and quite happily, thank you!  Our products are out there for whoever wants to pick them up, and you can pay more for the P&P hardcover (although we recommend waiting for a Lulu sale) or get our ENTIRE catalog digitally for less than the price of two movie tickets.  Get what looks interesting to you (if anything at all).  We've accepted, and fully embrace, the amateur backbone of our beloved hobby...


  1. Absolutely nailed it.

    Maybe the problem isn't "cheapskate" gamers so much as it is certain game designers with overly grand visions of what a game or supplemental book should be? Perhaps the future of the RPG hobby is not in 500-page hardcovers with gobs of full-color art and slick production, but high-quality stuff written by hobbyists and made available cheaply (or free!) in PDF or print-on-demand format?

  2. Gaming is ultimately about PEOPLE making THEIR OWN fun, and that can't be marketed beyond a certain Point. Long may the amateur foundation of our hobby thrive!

  3. Thine arrow hath flown true! Hear, Hear!

  4. Thine arrow hath flown true! Hear, Hear!